Negotiating a Job Offer: Tips to Getting Your Full Value
Negotiating a job offer is never comfortable, but there are ways to ease the process.
Contributing Writer at Tally
October 19, 2021
The job search is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you’ve finished the interview phase, it may feel like you’re in the home stretch. But, you’re not clear yet.
Now comes the negotiation phase, as the employer aims to fit your skills within its budget. It's now your responsibility to maximize your earnings by negotiating the job offer.
This process can be uncomfortable for some, but by following these tips for negotiating a job offer, you aren’t leaving money or benefits on the table.
Tips for negotiating a job offer
Negotiating a job offer doesn’t need to be stressful as long as you come prepared with all the data you need and have set reasonable expectations. Here’s how to negotiate like a pro.
Research your value
Negotiating a job offer starts before you ever apply to the first company. It begins with understanding your value as an employee and the salary you deserve.
Using sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Payscale.com or Salary.com, you can get a good feel for the average salary for the job title you're applying for in various regions nationwide. If you're considering relocation, make sure to evaluate the salaries in that area, as they can vary greatly.
Set your non-negotiables
Before you start a job search, job seekers should set their non-negotiables. These are the bottom-line requirements for accepting a job offer. These will vary by person, as everyone has individual needs and wants, but they can include things like:
Number of PTO days
Number of sick days
Full-paid health insurance
Whatever your bare minimum needs are, write them down and keep them handy throughout your job search.
While setting your non-negotiables, you should also consider negotiables. These are perks you can ask for but are willing to forgo to accept the offer. They offer a couple benefits in the negotiation process.
First, your willingness to forgo these added perks shows humility and flexibility in the process. Second, it gives the hiring manager or recruiter some perks to sweeten the offer.
Establish a rapport with the recruiter
Many times you're interviewing against other prospects who have all the same skills and experience. The interview process becomes more about you than your skills. The same goes for the salary negotiation phase.
If the recruiter likes you and feels a connection with you, the process may be smoother. During the interview process, find ways to connect with the recruiter that aren't business-related.
Maybe during a remote interview you hear kids playing loudly nearby. Break the ice by talking about working with kids running around the house. If you’re interviewing in the office and see vacation pictures in an exotic location, you can bring up your love of travel too. Small things like this can start to build a relationship and make the negotiations easier.
Keep numbers to yourself
Any time a recruiter or hiring manager asks your salary range requirements, you may be tempted to present the non-negotiables you came up with.
However, this gives the hiring manager or recruiter an edge, as they may have a larger budget but now know you'll likely accept the job offer with a below-budget salary.
If the recruiter asks this question, respond by asking their budget. The recruiter should have the salary budget accessible and can present it to you. If the recruiter balks at your request for the salary, express that your expectations are a salary that's fair for the position and responsibilities it entails.
This now puts your negotiation skills to good use, as you can work your way up the budget range.
If the budgeted range is well-below your non-negotiable salary expectations, it's OK to bring this up to the recruiter. However, do so in a manner that builds you and your skills up instead of bashing their budget. Explain why you feel the role deserves a higher salary and let the recruiter respond.
In some cases, the initial salary budget is flexible, and your input could help increase it.
Negotiate the total compensation package
Avoid the temptation to negotiate on the salary alone. Look at the total compensation package and its overall value. If you're unsure how to value benefits, you can use a total compensation calculator to help.
Some valuable parts of the compensation package that you may miss include:
Paid health insurance
Paid life insurance
Annual Health Savings Account contributions
So, company A may offer you $50,000 per year with no additional benefits package, while company B offers you $45,000 in base salary, plus free on-site childcare and a 6% 401(k) match.
The 401(k) match alone brings the total compensation package to $47,700, and the free on-site childcare will likely close the remaining gap, as the average American spent $300 to 612 per week on child care in 2020 for just one child.
If a company can't meet your salary requirements but is flexible on the benefits package, you can use the latter as your negotiation point. So, if the salary is $5,000 too low, you could offset some of this cost by negotiating a work-from-home agreement and additional vacation days to close the gap.
This is why it's critical to ask the employer for all the benefits information before accepting any offer. Many employers will only include the salary, bonus, job title and possibly vacation time in the offer. You'll want to see the entire benefits package to get an accurate value.
Avoid accepting the first offer
Unless it’s perfect, it's best to not accept the first offer in any negotiation. Instead, use the first offer as the jumping-off point for negotiations. When you receive the offer, be gracious and thank the recruiter for the offer. However, ask if you can have time to review the offer and potentially negotiate some points. This gives the recruiter the opportunity to inform you if the offer isn't negotiable.
Some ways to broach this topic include:
"Thanks so much for all your time and the generous offer. I'd like to take a day or two to review the offer. Is there any room to move on the base salary?"
“I appreciate your offer and look forward to joining the team. May I take a day or two to review the offer and come back with any potential negotiation points?"
The key is to express gratitude and let the recruiter know you appreciate the time they dedicated to the interaction. Remember, the recruiter put in just as much time as you did during the hiring process — maybe more. Even if the negotiations don't work out, the recruiter will remember your kindness and will be willing to consider you for future roles.
Have a rationale for your requests
When you submit a counter offer, do so with a respectful rationale behind it. Don’t just say, "I am worth more than that."
Instead, present salary data to the recruiter based on the job title and responsibilities. You can also look at local tax rates and other variables to warrant a bump in starting salary.
If you want to negotiate your benefits package, using industry-standard benefit offerings is a great place to start. For example, if you want to work from home, you may tell the recruiter, "Working from home is quickly becoming a norm, and that is something I would like to add to this package, as it can help offset some commuting costs and help increase my productivity."
Presenting it as a double benefit — to you and to the company — will show that you're also concerned about the company's needs.
Make a Single Counter Offer
When making your counter offer, present all of your requests at once. So, if you want $5,000 more per year and another week's worth of vacation time, include both requests in the counter offer.
You want to avoid negotiating the salary to an acceptable number, then start negotiating the vacation time after the recruiter accepts your counter offer.
Make sure to be thorough, as this is likely the only opportunity you'll have to adjust the offer. After this phase, negotiating anything you missed may only cause friction and potentially result in the employer rescinding the offer.
Salary negotiation is part of your financial health
Being financially healthy and savvy not only includes paying down debt and mitigating expenses, but also maximizing income. Becoming an expert salary negotiator is a great way to support your goals of having healthy finances.
With these tips for initiating a job offer, you'll be able to maximize the income side of your financial health and potentially pay off any remaining debt more quickly with the extra income.
If you're also working on the debt portion of your financial wellbeing, the Tally† credit card repayment app can help. It not only rolls all your high-interest credit card debt into one easy monthly payment, but it also offers a lower-interest line of credit.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.